PRINCETON – More than a month after reports surfaced alleging racism and bullying at Princeton School, Johnston County Public Schools Board Chairman Todd Sutton has issued a response. Sutton says the school board’s law firm will conduct a broad investigation and make recommendations to the board of education.
On October 26th, ABC11 reported that a student, Brooklyn Edwards, said she had been called racial slurs and claimed tensions were high between white and black students at the school. “[I’ve been] called the N-word … a monkey, told to pick cotton,” the 15 year-old student alleged in the TV interview.
Afterwards, the Johnston County NAACP and African American Caucus of the Johnston County Democratic Party said they would be closely monitor the situation and called upon the JCPS administration to conduct a thorough investigation to ensure accountability for any students involved in the alleged bullying as well as any staff who failed to respond appropriately.
“Black students are too often the victims of racial bullying that is ignored or handled improperly,” said Dr. Gettys Cohen, president of NAACP-Johnston County Branch said in October. “The experiences are numerous and deserve attention. Black students who react to bullying are oftentimes the ones who suffer the consequences.”
“The school system administration’s effort is lacking and its follow-through at times has been lacking when it comes to initiators being disciplined,” said Angelique Legette, president of the African American Caucus of the Johnston County Democratic Party.
Tuesday night, Chairman Sutton read from a prepared statement saying in part, “We have heard the concern brought before us by several members of the Princeton community. We are appreciative of our administrative team at Princeton Middle/High and the work that they do on a daily basis. Please know that as a school district, we want to provide a safe and harmonious place for all of our students and staff.”
“Our school administrators thoroughly investigate any incident that is reported on our campuses. Johnston County Public Schools has a very close working relationship with our local law enforcement, and we involve them in an investigation anytime it is deemed necessary. In most instances, these investigations could involve student discipline or confidential information pertaining to our students and will not be shared publicly.”
“The Board of Education will not tolerate racist bullying or harassment in our schools. Our school administration has reviewed the most recent reports of racist harassment at Princeton Middle/High. However, to make sure that we understand how students have been treated at Princeton, we have asked our law firm for a broader investigation into the school environment and for recommendations on how to ensure a positive school environment for all students and staff.”
“We encourage our students to speak up if they witness or experience anything that makes them feel uncomfortable while in the school setting. We have means of anonymous reporting that have been made available to our students over the last several years. As previously stated, any incidents that are reported to our administrative teams are investigated promptly and thoroughly.”
“Please hear us in saying that we take all allegations of racism, harassment, and bullying occurring in our schools seriously,” Chairman Sutton stated.
“Johnston County is changing, and Black and other minority children should be able to attend school without the fear of racist bullying so that they can focus on their education,” Legette said in October. “Students must also have confidence that school administrators will establish and enforce policies to include and protect them.”
“Johnston County Public Schools must stand up for its students and immediately institute and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for racism, discrimination, and harassment,” Dr. Cohen said in October.